I just watched a speech by the Heritage Foundation. It’s interesting to see those so solidly committed to conservatism speak. They seem quite disconnected from me. One of the more interesting statements was the reiteration of their committment to the free market as well as traditional values (i.e.: the importance of family) without any sense of irony. Are they blind to the corrosive affect of the free market on family? Do they completely ignore the late 18th and early 20th centuries? Unfettered markets are destructive, they devalue the human existance and exacerbate suffering.
There are several places I find myself aligned with conservative ideas. For instance, I’m no fan of welfare. However, it’s not out of any sense of rage that there are people gaining subsistence without adequate effort. My concern is one of human dignity. The way most US welfare systems were constructed did not provide for getting oneself off the dole. The system actually resisted efforts to improve one’s marketability and find more then simple employment but a career. I didn’t, and still don’t, see that as a failure of the individual but of the system.
Perhaps the most central place I depart from most conservatives is in the notion of the "ideal" human. Classic liberal thinking has the individual as the natural or ideal state of humanity. I disagree. People have a need for society. Humans in isolation die (in extremes, and suffer egregious mental damage in lesser doses). I see humanity existing on a social continuum. There are times we need others, and times we need isolation. We all exist in a tension between social influences and individual directives.
Another piece I find interesting is how they don’t see how most Americans have a distrust for Capital. Much of conservatism is viewed as simple justification for the rich continuing exploitation. They don’t see that many believe that there is a tyranny by the rich, that we of more modest means are inherently disempowered, that the only way to have influence is with money. The rich are viewed as having undue favor, quite corrosive to social cohesion.
I have nothing against a strong defence, however that is quite different that bullying the rest of the world. We may ramble on about bringing freedom to the rest of the world, but a good many of the rest of the world sees our international (extra-national?) activities as being in our narrow self interest. It’s important to note that a it doesn’t take a deep dive into the US history to see solid examples. Not very many people see our actions in Iraq, for instance, as the efforts to depose a dangerous dictator. Instead, our actions have been viewed as an attempt to secure our grip on the world’s most valuable commodity.
Though I’ve grown weary over the past few years of this need to define oneself in such polar terms, and in ways that really misuse the classic definitions of "conservative" and "liberal", I still exist in this system. I thus find myself more "liberal" in this context. Perhaps, someday, I’ll be able to define myself in more valuable detail, such as saying I’m a "progressive traditionalist". Perhaps. And, perhaps, the thing I grow the most weary is the currency of rage that both extremes spend with glee.